Neurotech startups are exciting as they roll out innovations never thought of before.
Neurotech startups are here.
Letís play a neurotech game. Stop and close your eyes and go back about a minute or two. You know right before you clicked on this article’s URL. How did you arrive here? A keyword search that you typed in with a keyboard. Or did you use a voice search?
To interact with your computer, typically, you type on a keyboard, swipe your fingers across a screen or speak a voice command. What if, instead, the machine responded to their thoughts? Think about that for a moment.
While still in an experimental phase, the neurotech device shows promise for a new kind of human-machine interaction. Commercially, such an interface can allow users to control a computer without the need for a mouse, keyboard, or touch screen.
Think of the application.
How many times do you see people looking at the phone, watches, smart devices only to see nothing? Itís become an addiction of sorts.
It also could enable people to interact more directly with games and other software. Beyond that, the applications are far-reaching.
Such advances in brain-computer interfaces might even help the disabled to maneuver a wheelchair or control a robotic arm.
Neurotech is a big business. For devices alone, Neurotech Report projected a $7.6 billion market in 2016 that could reach $12 billion by 2020.
And todayís hardware market is just the beginning, as shown by an analysis of more than 10,000 IP filings worldwide by market research firm SharpBrains.
The overall financial impact of such neurotechnologies is enormous. Overall, if you include the medical uses of neurotech, other devices, and all the businesses that can benefit from brain-related technologies, this is a field thatís generating well over $150 billion in revenues annually.
These startups have seen investment from NEA, Andreessen Horowitz, and DARPA.
As the digital health sector matures from basic tracking apps into highly regulated medical devices, we are seeing bleeding-edge technologies being developed that blur the lines between computers and biology. And a growing share of these neurotechnology startups is beginning to target the brain.
The burgeoning field of neurotechnology involves brain-machine interfaces, neuroprosthetics, neurostimulation, neuromonitoring, and implantable devices intended to not only augment nervous system activity but expand its capabilities.
One such project is Elon Muskís Neuralink, which is developing ďhigh bandwidth brain-machine interfaces to connect humans and computers.Ē And even Facebook has announced plans to create brain-machine interfaces that allow users to type using their thoughts.
Below, we used CB Insights data to identify 21 early- and mid-stage neurotech companies working across brain-machine interfaces, neuroprosthetics, neuromonitoring, and neurostimulator devices.
1. Kernel our First Neurotech Startups
Kernel is an early-stage brain-machine interface company formed and funded by Bryan Johnson, founder of the online payments company Braintree and the OS Fund.
While initially intending to build memory prostheses, which would allow for the external storage and subsequent upload of human memories into the hippocampus, the company has since pivoted and is now working on the way to measure and stimulate the electrical impulses of many neurons at once.
The technology will be used clinically for diseases such as depression or Alzheimerís. In November of 2018, Northwestern University professor Hooman Mohseni joined Kernel as its CTO.
Select Investors: Bryan Johnson
Total Disclosed Funding: $100M
2. Dreem is One of the Cool Neurotech Startups
Dreem (formerly Rythm), founded in France and now based in San Francisco, is a neurotechnology startup that has developed a sleep-monitoring, head-mounted wearable. The device uses EEG electrodes to monitor and analyze brain activity during sleep.
It then uses ďbone conduction technologyĒ to modulate brain activity by emitting subtle sounds at precise moments that the company claims enhances the overall quality of deep sleep.
The device is linked to an app that displays sleep metrics and personalized recommendations based on the userís sleep habits.
Everyone is worried about their sleep and one of the top neurotech startups working with the issue.
Select Investors: Innovation Commission 2030, Laurent Alexandre, MAIF Avenir, Xavier Niel
Total Disclosed Funding: $57.5M
Thync has developed a small, wearable ďpodĒ that attaches to the back of the neck and uses neurostimulation to combat stress and promote better sleep. Their lead product, the Thync Relax Pro, uses low levels of electrical stimulation to activate nerve pathways in the head and neck.
According to the company, these pathways communicate with areas of the brain to help control stress levels and sleep quality. The product is targeted towards consumers who frequently suffer from stress and consequently struggle to sleep.
Select Investors: Khosla Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, Noosphere Ventures
Total Disclosed Funding: $13M
4. Halo Neuroscience
Halo Neuroscience, based in San Francisco, is one of the interserting neurotech startups in sports performance. Halo has developed a brain-stimulating device called the Halo Sport. The device sends weak electrical pulses into the userís brain with the intent of enhancing the efficiency of physical training.
The product is based on the concept of neuro-priming, i.e., using electrical stimulation to increase plasticity in the brain before an activity. According to the company, when paired with physical training, this results in increased strength, endurance, and muscle memory.
In May 2018, USA Cycling announced it was partnering with Halo to help train its cyclists. Halo also hired Yasi Baiani, formerly Head of Product Management at FitBit, as the companyís VP of Product in August 2018, a possible indication of the companyís intentions to pursue the consumer market more aggressively.
Select Investors: Andreessen Horowitz, Lux Capital, Jazz Venture Partners, Xfund
Total Disclosed Funding: $24.7M
Synchron is developing an implantable device, called the Stentrode, which aims to provide a safe way for paralyzed patients to achieve direct brain control of mobility-assistive devices. This is an interesting neurotech startup.
The system involves a small and flexible device that can pass through cerebral blood vessels, allowing it to implant in the brain and interpret electrical data emitted by neurons.
The company is currently preparing for early-stage clinical trials to evaluate the safety and feasibility of the device to enable patient-directed brain control. Synchronís founder and CEO, Dr. Thomas Oxley, was named the 2018 Advance Life Sciences Award Winner for his work on the Stentrode.
Select Investors: DARPA, U.S. Department of Defense, Neuro Technology Investors
Total Disclosed Funding: $10M
6. BrainCo, Inc.
BrainCo, a product of the Harvard Innovation Lab, specializes in brain-machine interface wearables. The companyís main product line is the Focus series, which offers wearable headbands for education, fitness, and mind-controlled games.
BrainCo, a neurotech startup, has also expanded into prosthetics, working under the name BrainRobotics. The company is developing a robotic prosthetic hand that can be controlled by the userís mind.
This neurotech startup is developed right out of school.
Using machine learning and electromyography, which measures brain signals to various muscle groups, BrainRoboticsí prosthesis product is currently capable of reproducing six distinct tactile hand gestures.
Select Investors: Boston Angel Club, Hantan Capital, Wandai Capital
Total Disclosed Funding: $5.6M
Neurable is developing brain-computer interfaces that allow people to control software and devices using only their brain activity. The software makes use of machine learning methods to reduce the lag time between analysis of neural activity and output, potentially reducing it down to real-time.
Neurableís current headset uses six dry electrodes and takes two minutes to calibrate, a notable improvement on its previous design, which relied upon 32 wet electrodes to monitor brain activity and a calibration process of 30 minutes.
While the company eventually intends to allow patients unable to communicate to have greater control over their environment, it is initially targeting the AR/VR gaming industry.
Select Investors: Mithril Capital Management, Loup Ventures, NXT Ventures, BOSS Syndicate
Total Disclosed Funding: $7.2M
Weíre listening and learning about new neurotech startups every day.
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